Rooted in Christ

The Secret to Seeing Sin

But the most natural way to expose sin is by knowing God.

“And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost.’” (Isaiah 6:5)

I used to say that my son was gifted with obliviovision. He could look at something right in front of his face and be oblivious to it. That was especially the case when it came to discarded clothes on his bedroom floor.

We can exercise obliviovision when it comes to the sin in our lives. It can stare us in the face and yet we don’t see it. Sometimes we don’t see sin because we’ve justified it with an excuse or disguised it with a cloak of righteousness. Sometimes, we whitewash sin through euphemism. In many cases, though, we are just blind to it.

That’s one of the benefits of Christian community. Brothers and sisters in Christ can help us to see our sin and exhort us in the way of righteousness. That’s important because sin can act as a cancer, negatively affecting our walk with God, our fellowship with brethren, and even our personal well-being. David’s confession in Psalm 32 shows both the spiritual and physical effects of harbored sin.

Another way to expose sin is by the work of the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin, righteousness and judgment. He does that through reading His Word. Also we can ask for the Spirit’s diagnostic work when we cry out to Him to search our inner being and make manifest ways we grieve Him. Clearly, the prayer of Psalm 139:23-24 is not for the benefit of an omniscient God, who knows the heart. It is for the benefit of the one whose heart can deceive him.

But the most natural way to expose sin is by knowing God.

As I’ve gotten older it’s gotten harder to read small print. I’ll put on my reading glasses that magnify the print and I’ll put the text under bright light. Knowing God serves a similar function. The light of His presence will expose the stain and strains of sin that run through our hearts.

We see that in Isaiah’s encounter with God in Isaiah 6. Isaiah was never more aware of his sin and sinfulness than when he found himself in the presence of the Holy God. He was impacted negatively not only by the presence of His sin but also by its pollution. Even his righteousness he would have seen as a menstrual cloth.

We find the same phenomenon in Job. “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5–6). Knowing God makes sin apparent and prompts repentance.

I need the magnification of glasses to read fine print. But to see sin we need the magnification of God. We want to make Him bigger in our eyes, to see Him more clearly, to ascribe to Him the glory due His name. That sort of magnification requires lingering with God, bringing the glory of His being to fill our gaze and act as a spotlight to our hearts.

Only by seeing our sin in all its ugliness will we be incited to godly sorrow and genuine repentance. But God does not want us to see our sin merely for housecleaning purposes, like I wanted for my son to see the mess of his room.

God wants us to see His remedy for sin, Jesus Christ. He is where the light of God shines brightest, brilliant with the full spectrum of grace to warm our hearts and direct our steps. He wants to draw us closer without fear and with great delight.

Digging Deeper

  1. Read Isaiah 6:1-7. How did Isaiah become aware of his sin?
  2. How was his sin addressed and how does that point to Christ?     

Our Father in heaven, hallowed by Your Name. I thank You that You have enabled me to bow before the Name that is above every name. Grant me grace to honor that Name and to live in holiness as You are holy. 

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Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and nine grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.